Tuesday 24 April 2018

Wenger's woes at midfield put young guns in line for Anfield baptism of fire

Jeremy Wilson

ARSENE WENGER could be without his five most senior central midfielders against Liverpool on Sunday, meaning 18-year-olds Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere are both in line to make their first Premier League starts for Arsenal.

Abou Diaby, Alex Song and Denilson are all still nursing short-term muscular injuries, while captain Cesc Fabregas is also increasingly unlikely to be risked after playing no football in a month since the World Cup.

With Aaron Ramsey continuing his rehabilitation from a broken leg and not due to return before November, the remaining options are severely limited.

Wenger has played Frimpong and Wilshere as the two deepest-lying central midfielders in the club's past three pre-season matches and, after also extensively pairing them together in training, believes they could both handle starting at Anfield.

If, as expected, Diaby, Song and Denilson are not ready for Sunday, the only other option would involve playing Samir Nasri or Tomas Rosicky in a deeper midfield position. Wenger, though, has earmarked Nasri to play in Fabregas' usual position behind the main central striker.

That striker is likely to be new signing Marouane Chamakh, with Robin van Persie also struggling to be fit following his involvement in the World Cup final. "They are a lot behind," said Wenger. "I hope Van Persie will have a good week of preparation, but I think he will be short as well."

Wenger is also continuing to work on new signings, with inquiries made for Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, as well as Fulham's Mark Schwarzer, while Phil Jagielka, Per Mertesacker and Emir Spahic are being looked at.

Despite a statement from Fabregas committing himself to Arsenal, the concerted campaign from Barcelona shows no sign of abating, with Xavi yesterday suggesting that a deal could be done in January.

"We've given up on the idea of him arriving now, but maybe he'll come in January when Arsenal are out of the Premier League title race," said Xavi. "Their team are just not competitive." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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